An Insight into Programming
by: Helen Du Toit
HELEN DU TOIT
PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Helen Du Toit is the Artistic Director of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She began her career as an arts administrator for the British Council in London, where she organized international tours for British dance and theatre companies. Helen has worked for the Comedy Festival and the Vancouver Film festival which led to positions at Palm Springs, Seattle, Edinburgh, and Toronto International Film Festivals. She served as Creative Director at VIFF’s Film & TV Forum from 2006 to 2011. Last year Helen produced TIFF’s Talent Lab and Rising Stars programmes. Helen is also an independent film producer. Some of the films she has produced include Treed Murray, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, and The Story of Film: An Odyssey.
How many years have you been with PSIFF?
I started in 1990, left in 1993, and have been back since 2004.
What brings you back each year?
PSIFF is the quintessential audience festival – and has such a warm vibe between film-goers and filmmakers and the international focus enables me to experience various cultures. Plus I LOVE the mountains, where I hike most mornings as an antidote to sitting in the dark watching way too many films.
What is your approach when choosing the films that will be included in the festival?
Initially, it is my gut instinct; does it grab my attention? Does it have a compelling vision? Is it original? What do they want to say and is it said well? What I enjoy the most is being taken as far beyond my own realm of experience as possible.
What is the best way to decide what films to see? What would you say to someone coming to the festival for the first time?
Are you snacking or feasting? Once that is decided, half of your selection should include films that align with your interests. For the other half, take a risk. The festival is like doing a year of University in 10 days.
What are some of your favorite films from this year?
“The Fifth Season”: The film has an exquisite composition that slowly builds to the emotional impact. (Belgium)
“Blancanieves”: Is a masterfully directed black and white film silent by a very talented young director, Pablo Berger. It represents Spain in the foreign-language Oscar race this year. Pablo’s first feature “Torremolinos 73” won the PSIFF New Voice/New Visions Award for in 2004, and prior to that his short film won a prize at PS ShortFest. So we have been tracking his rise to fame since he began!
“War Witch”: You are taken so far outside of your personal experience in this story of child soldiers. Although it is a narrative, it is so naturalistic it feels like you are there with them. I think it is a strong contender for the foreign language Oscar shortlist
“More Than Honey”: This documentary is “March of the Penguins” for Bee’s. (Germany)
“Barbara”: A German film that perfectly illustrates how less is more.
“Rust and Bone”: A devastating, deeply moving, and magnificent all at once. Featuring the magnificent Marion Cottilard and Matthias Schoenaert who starred in Bullhead last year. (France/Belgium)
“Sadourni’s Butterflies”: This is one of the best first feature films I have ever seen. It was made by an artist and is a labour of love that took 12 years to make. (Argentina)
“Amour”: Michael Haneke in a very different mode. Although still exploring issues of violence in the family, here there is great tenderness yet completely void of sentimentality. Career performances from the two leads. This should win Best Film at the Oscars. (Austria)
About The Palm Springs International Film Festival
The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, welcoming 135,000 attendees each year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The Festival is also known for its annual Black Tie Awards Gala, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett, Danny Boyle, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet.
The 24th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival is presented by Title Sponsor, the City of Palm Springs. Presenting Sponsors are Spencer’s, The Desert Sun, Entertainment Tonight, Wells Fargo, Regal Entertainment Group, Bank of America and Wintec. Major sponsors are Panavision, Ocean Properties Development, Raymond|Lawrence, Chihuly, Telefilm Canada. The Festival’s Awards Gala is presented by Cartier and sponsored by Mercedes-Benz.
For more information, call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or visit www.psfilmfest.org.
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Palm Springs International Film Festival